Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Hope you get only treats... Enjoy the festivities but if you're driving keep an eye out for the little trick or treaters who might dart into the road. Don't think I'm going to get any here. Didn't even buy any candy, but maybe I should get a bag of baby Kit Kat bars -- just in case.

Another blast from the past

Another family photo. Not sure when this one was taken but I love the look on my brother's face. Even then he was rough and tough guy. That's "cousin" Cynthia sitting with us.

That was also about the age when my hair developed a will of its own. I struggled for years trying to tame it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Noho loses another iconic local

This photo is from the fabulous Paul Shoul. I'm linking to the top of his blog so you can easily scroll to see some of his other gorgeous photo posts and you should definitely click over to read his charming obit about how he managed to get this shot of Bonnie Ascher. I suspect it may be the only recent photo of her in existence.

Bonnie was an odd duck. For years I was kind of afraid of her. She seemed to be a street person, rolling that bike around town. It's relatively empty in that shot. Sometimes it would be so loaded with cans and mysterious bulging garbage bags, she wouldn't be able to ride it. She just pushed it around town, often complaining in her loud gruff voice to no one in particular, voicing greivances that only made sense within in her own head.

I think maybe it was Harry McColgan who finally broke the ice with her, for me I mean. I was sitting with Harry in what was then called City Cafe and she came in. He bought her a drink and she stood there long enough to finish it. She never sat down but that's the first time I remember having anything resembling a conversation with her. After that she apparently considered me a friend and would sometimes engage me in small talk when we passed on the street. Over time we developed something of a relationship.

I was too lazy to return my beer bottles. Didn't seem the effort to me for the 30 cents a six pack, so I gave them to anyone who would come collect them from my porch. For years the old man, Mike, at the end of the block collected them. After he died Maurice took over but at some point he sort of disappeared from town. So I gave the gig to Bonnie and she was very reliable. She preferred can collecting for obvious reasons, but would make a special trip for my bottles, I suppose because she could trot them next door to the package store for the buck or so they were worth by the time she made her semi-monthly pickup without having to load them on the bike.

I was suprised to learn she had a home and family in the area. And it turned out that some of those bulging garbage bags were full of clothes that she would pay to have sent to some Indian reservation out west. I would occassionally run into her at the Post Office, pushing a shopping cart full of carefully taped boxes, cursing her head off when it was too heavy or too overloaded to easily get up the stairs. Sometimes I helped her load it inside.

Last time I saw her was when I moved. I gave her five garbage bags stuffed with clothes I didn't want to take with me. She ended up taking a lot of other stuff too that I had intended to keep, including my broom and dustpan that I was using to clean up. She was funny that way. Very single minded. She had it in her head that I had to empty that place out and she was determined to see it happen.

Of course, we weren't so close that we kept in touch once I moved, but still, I'm very sad to hear she's gone. She was only 61. Paul went to the funeral and said it was beautiful. I'm glad she got a nice sendoff. She had a good heart and a golden soul. Rest in peace Bonnie. Hope you get some rest now, on the other side of the veils.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Day at the Park

It's another dismal day in the south. Not quite as cold but gloomy. So I'm cheering myself up with pictures of a sunny day. More spoiled ducks from my recent trek to the pond.

And it's been a long time since I've seen a carved tree. I think if you click the picture to enlarge it, you might be able to read them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Goodbye Soupy Sales

I didn't get around to posting this earlier but I'm really sad that Soupy Sales died. His show was one of my very favorites when I was a kid. They were having so much fun on that program, you couldn't help but feel good just watching it. I loved all the ongoing characters and the running skits, but I have to admit Pookie was my favorite of them all.

Great obit at the Detroit News, where I got this video and they have more great links at the sidebar there. Rest in peace Soupy. Hope they have pies in heaven.

Great obit at Detroit News and check out the extra links at the sidebar where

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Time for an Upgrade I Guess

Well I spent about three hours, maybe more, yesterday trying to figure out why that ugly code appears at the top of the blog. The good news is, I'm not the only one who has this problem. The bad news is, it's in the template and none of the fixes I found, that I could understand even slightly, work to get rid of it.

Apparently, if you use a classic template, something happened when Google took over Blogger and they're probably punishing us for failing to upgrade to a newer template. The big problem seems to be, that my template is so old it makes the other classic templates look modern. I don't have the same code in mine that other people do. Hell, I barely have any code in this one. When I tried the easy fixes, it didn't do a thing. And when I tried all the fixes at once, I froze the program. Thought for a minute I may have broken the blog altogether.

I suppose at some point I'm going to have to bite the bullet and upgrade to one of the new ones. Which probably wouldn't be a bad idea since this little blog could use a little facelift.

Autumn Leaves, Outside My Window...

Well the lovely warm days seem to be gone again. Have the heat back on, but at least it's pretty out there. This is the view from my front porch.

A lot of other people sharing their views too. John Dickerson and Pearlagogo and Lance Mannion. And some people sharing the view from other places. Loved this one from Greg Mitchell and Tits McGee is in Boston.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mystery Fruit Solved!

It was driving me crazy that I couldn't figure out this fruit. And I couldn't believe that nobody else knew what it was either. Of coure, once I went out and inspected the tree again, I realized my clues sucked. I don't know how I missed the thorns on this tree the first time and I totally remembered the leaf configuration wrong. You may have to click on the picture to enlarge it to appreciate the thorns. They're huge and the tree is covered with them.

As I said on Facebook, I was afraid to knock on the neighbor's door and just ask. When I moved in here, my landlady told me they were very cranky old people who hated this house because of a dispute over the driveway boundary. Well, after I took the shots and picked up a couple more fruit, they happened to outside, so I screwed up my courage and just approached them. Boy was my landlady wrong.

The woman was sweet as anything. She hugged me immediately. Unfortunately she didn't know what the blessed tree was either. Told me it had been gifted to her by a friend and that they grow wild out in the country here. But she explained how she turned the fruit into decorations for the holidays and invited to help myself.

As it turns out my brilliant sister's suggestion that I cut the fruit in half is what finally tipped the scales. Damn if it wasn't a citrus fruit after all. Don't know why the skin is a little fuzzy, but once I split it, it was clear it was an orange of some kind. And the seeds looked different when I cut it instead of just squishing it by stepping on it. Cleary citrus seeds, as you may be able to see in this picture.

Thus armed, I hit the google and finally identified it as a Japanese Hardy Orange Tree, also known as a bitter orange and sometimes referred to as a Flying Dragon, I assume because of the thorns.

Apparently the fruit is edible but very bitter. They suggest it can used to make a juice though, if you sweeten it. Here's what a healthy tree looks like and if you care about the botanical info, it's here and here. Thanks to everyone who tried to help.

A Day at the Park

I had all these ends of bread and didn't want to just throw them out, so I decided to go feed the ducks in the park the other day since it was such a lovely afternoon. I wasn't the only one with that idea. There were six other people doing it too and man, are those ducks spoiled. Before I got there, I was wondering if they might come up and swarm me on the bank. Instead, they swam away before I was out of bread.

The seem to have some kind of social order, where certain ones hang out in groups. I had to walk around the pond to feed the really lazy ones. They'll eat if you deliver. Crazy. But it was fun.

The trees are finally turning here as well. These are in my new neighborhood.

Just barely caught the light on my way home. Getting excited to be living on that end of town.

Meanwhile, I ran across this amazing gallery of color photos of Russia from the early 1900s that I think my Dad will like. Click here Dad and keep scrolling down.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is there a botanist in the house?

After most of a lifetime living in the north, I knew the names of just about every fruit and wildflower in the region. Since I've been in the south, there's still a lot of flora and fauna I can't identify. This fruit is one of them.

It's about the size of a large golfball. It's pretty hard but you can squish it easily by stepping on it, and it's full of those seeds that look like very plump pumpkin seeds. It just seems to be the seeds and some stringy flesh inside and it's vaguely fuzzy but not at all furry. It grows on a shrubby tree in my neighbor's yard or maybe it's just a really large bush. Any idea what it is?

I'll admit I didn't try to ID it at all. If I google it, I get so easily sidetracked that I'll end up lost on some site discussing the finer points of chickle or something. So I'm trying to tap the group knowledge first.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Grocery Store Musical

Sorry. Busy day yesterday and my internet was not working well. Big news is I put down a deposit on the new apartment. Getting somewhat excited about getting out of this place and my new landlord is such a sweetie. He's painting the hall so it will be fresh when I move in and is upgrading the electrical outlets, even before he got a cent from me.

Anyway, another busy day for me but in the interim, ran across this youtube. I just love these flash mob events. This is a great one.

I live in hope that someday, I'll be someplace where one of these things breaks out.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I want to marry you...

Aw. This is possibly the most romantic marriage proposal I've ever heard of.
SUNDERLAND - John Laing and Ariel Baruch went for a leaf-peeping drive Saturday. When the couple reach the top of Mount Sugarloaf, they looked down at a field where a thousand pumpkins spelled out "Ari Please Marry Me."

"It was a lot of pumpkins," said Laing, 25. "She was speechless for a good 30 seconds."

But Baruch, 23, said yes, she reported Sunday.

"I was just staring at him and crying," Baruch said. "I knew it would happen someday."

Laing had spent part of Thursday and all of Friday setting up the approximately 80-foot letters in the nearly one-acre field owned by Warner Farms, the site of Mike's Corn Maze.
How sweet is that? Hell, I'd marry a guy that would go to that much trouble to propose to me.

The proposal was orginally supposed to have the message mowed into a field, but the farmer talked him into spelling out the proposal instead with a 1,000 pumpkins. Quite a feat considering this is no country boy. He works for a insurance company in New York City.

The pumpkins are still out there. Farmer Mike is selling them billed as a "pick-your-own marriage proposal patch," he said. You can't probably read the rest unless you subscribe to the Gazette, but if you do, here's the link. And maybe you can see the photo here.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Happy Valley, Mount Sugarloaf is a municipal park with an observation point where you get a great view of the farms below.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Something happening here

Not sure what, but something must be going on in town this weekend. I can't believe it's leaf peepers. The colors haven't really turned all that much here yet. Not to mention it unreasonably cold here this week. Should be at least ten degrees warmer. But the grocery store was jammed with tourists last night buying fruit and sandwich stuff and the big motel across the street with the big highway sign that advertises its cheap rooms, suddenly raised its rates by $22 a night. It's been $38.00 for months, but this weekend it's $60. It's not a bad motel, but it's not worth sixty bucks a night, unless you have no choice.

And the price of gas went up again too. Not that it matters so much to me. I won't have to fill up for a while yet. Maybe it will go down again in the interim. Ha!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life is funny, but it's not a joke

Well new developments on the apartment. The landlord called me up and offered to hold the place for six weeks for me, because he really wants me as a tenant. And he's even willing to take the chance that I find something better and won't be mad if I don't move in after all. A landlord that good is hard to find.

In the interim he's going to upgrade the electrical outlets, which is a problem everywhere in this town. And as it turns out the front porch, which is very nice, is for everyone's use and he tells me the retired couple downstairs sit out there to smoke in the nice weather and are very friendly. Would probably be glad to have the company. It would be nice to have neighbors that actually talk to me. My neighbor here is not friendly at all and I need to get socialized in this town.

I also woke up yesterday and realized that my lease actually runs on Dec 1st, not Jan 1st so I wouldn't be eating an extra month's rent after all and can move sooner. So I guess my new plan is to try to look at a few more places this week but I suspect I'm going to end up taking this place, ugly paneling and all. If I put up all my art and photos and balloon posters and get a huge world map to cover it up, it won't be so bad. And with such a low rent I'll be able to save some money.

Of course, the downside is, I have to move again. I hate moving but I do so need to get out of this place. I really want the next stop to be a home where I can settle in for a long while.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On the bright side

To lighten things up a little after that last anguished post, some things are going well. I found my extra house key for this place that I thought I had lost. Turned out it was under the recycle bin. Funny thing is, I had looked there when I was searching but apparently it had become stuck to the bottom of the bin after the big rain storm and then fell off when I moved the bin out to the street. Found it on the porch. Now safely on a key ring and in a better hiding place. Also, the trash guys took my trash on Tuesday after all, even though I was out a day early. They must have crossed the street to do it. I thought that was nice of them. One of the pluses of living in a small town I guess. And maybe they appreciate that I keep my recycling organized so it's easy to separate into their various bins on the truck.

Also invested in a new pair of flannel lined felt slippers on Monday, along with an electric space heater. The slippers are great. They're men's slippers because the women's slippers are all froufrou slides or giant fuzzballs. They fit perfectly, have rubber soles and my feet are warm if nothing else. The heater works great too to keep the computer room cozy, so I don't have to turn on the heat as much. I can keep the rest of the house at 62 and just cozy up in here. And as long as the night temps don't get freezing, I can use it in the bedroom to keep my nose from freezing. I have enough blankets so I can otherwise keep it cool at night. So there's that.

Decisions, decisions

It's clear to me I have to get out of this apartment. I've had this vague feeling being unwell that keeps getting worse and I'm sure it's because of the moldy dampness here. Turning on the heat makes it worse unfortunately. Suspecting the heat ducts are a mold factory. I'm thinking if I keep it on all day, it may burn off, if it doesn't aphixiate me first, but the house just bleeds heat and it will cost a bloody fortune to keep it warm all winter no matter what I do to tighten it up. The floors are like ice, even with the heat running.

I started house hunting again. I actually looked at a place yesterday morning. It wasn't perfect. The hall outside the apartment smelled a little musty, but that's been true of almost every cheap place I've looked at and this one at least didn't smell like cigarette smoke too. The stairs are steep and narrow, but there's only one set. Inside the apartment was fine. The heat was cranked up and it worked great and the place didn't smell bad at all. I was too hot after 15 minutes in there looking around. But the down side is the living room and bedroom have ugly paneling. Not cheezy, but just ugly. And there are ugly blue rugs in both rooms. He tells me one is new and they aren't disgusting or dirty, but they are very ugly. Probably wouldn't be so noticable once I got furniture in there and I could invest in a area rug or two I suppose. Also, there's no porch with it and it looks like there's no cross ventilation. Not clear if the windows can even be opened.

On the plus side, the location is great. It's a safe neighborhood. There's a really old cemetary nearby. Love those. Easy walk to downtown. A longish, but not impossible walk to my Dad's place. The space itself is good. It flows well and it's big for a one bedroom. Lots of storage, a great walk in closet that could practically be another room. It even has a window. Kitchen a little short on counter space, but big enough for a table and I could put my yellow vanity table where the washer dryer hookups are for more counter space. There's a fireplace in the bedroom that's well sealed with a big piece of slate I think. No creosote smell at all and it's been raining which is when that seems to be a problem. A previous tenant arted up the mantel. It's cute. Bathroom is nicer than any cheap place I've looked at. Better than the one I have certainly. Just redid the flooring and it's pretty big although it doesn't have a vanity, I love the old pedestal sink and there is storage in there.

The landlord or manager or whatever he is, is very nice. He appears to be more than accomodating on fixing things. Offered to upgrade the outlets since there's no three prong ones in there right now. And they obviously care about the place. Has a hardwired smoke detector. This place I'm in now doesn't have one at all. I'm told the neighbors are all quiet and keep to themselves.

Biggest plus is it's cheap. Only $400 a month and he tells me they won't ever raise the rent because they want long term tenants more than making a few extra bucks. Second floor so it will be cheap to heat and it's on the north side of the house, so it probably won't get too hot in the summer. It has central air in any event. And ceiling fans in both rooms. Maybe the kitchen too. I forget already.

Have to sign a year lease but after that it's tenancy at will and he'll give me a break on the security deposit. And they pay for the water and sewer. Having looked at a couple of dozen places since I've been here, I'm finding you pretty much get what you pay for. At the price, it's probably unlikely I could do much better. I'm probably not going to find my dream apartment in a house that looks like the graphic in a good neighborhood for that kind of money.

Of course the biggest question is, if I take this place, I'll have to eat two months of rent I've already paid here. I was thinking I'd end up eating one because I want to find something by Dec 1st so I can make an easy transition and move most of my stuff myself, albeit slowly in small loads. So I'm basically obsessing about losing $450 bucks. Which is not insignificant to me at this point but it will probably cost me almost that much to keep this place warm. But if I hold out for another month and don't find anything better, I'll be sorry I didn't take this one. On the other hand, if the perfect place came up two weeks after I sign a lease I'll want to kill myself. I hate these major life choices.

I couldn't sleep last night trying to decide what to do. Help me out here friends. Am I being penny wise and pound foolish?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hiking with Dad

Since I didn't blog all weekend, here's another old picture my sister sent me. I think you can figure out which one is me by now. Wasn't my Dad so handsome? He still is, by the way.

I got to get out of this place

You know there's a lot of things I love about this apartment but the dampness problem is really a deal breaker. The last kind of musty place I lived in improved when I turned the heat on, but using the gas heat here makes the place smell worse. I swear I have to open the door for minute once the place is warm, just so I can breathe. I suspect the filter hasn't been changed in forever and I suppose I could figure out how to do that myself, but I'm thinking it's likely the ducts are moldy.

Planning to circumvent the problem by going out to get a space heater of some kind today but eventually I'll have to turn on the other system to keep the pipes from freezing. I really can't live with this in the long term. On the bright side, the lease runs out on Jan 1, and then goes month to month, so I'm not stuck here too much longer.

Actually found a place I liked the looks of while driving around the other day. The big apartment is just gorgeous, from what I could see from the windows. Hardwood floors, a sunroom, huge deck, giant kitchen. Unfortunately too big for me, but there's a little studio apartment in the back that's in a separate building that looks a tower. The whole place is empty. The neighbor, who came out when I was poking around, tells me that it's because all the former tenants were "Nascar boys" whatever that means. I assume it has something to do with the track near here.

Meanwhile, I realized this morning that yesterday was a holiday and I went out in the rain last night to drag out my trash bin a day early. I suppose it doesn't matter. They will come tomorrow, but I feel like a dork. The neighbors probably think I'm an idiot for not keeping track of it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Oh baby

Me and the siblings. I'm the tall one.

I loved this apartment we lived in. Or rather I loved the yard. It was huge, and terraced and had sheep, or maybe goats, and chickens. And a big stretch of woods on one side and huge marshy swamp at the bottom of the hill.

We're standing on the terrace that overlooked it all. And in the yard on the other side were roses. Dozens of hybrid rose bushes in gorgeous colors and wonderful aroma. And there were so many kids in that neighborhood. It was a great place to grow up.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

For the birders

You might recall I posted some blurry pictures of the hawk that was in the neighbor's yard a while back. I was surprised that the little birds were harassing it, but apparently, that's not as uncommon as I thought. Check out this picture.

What a cool shot. Just wow. Details on how it was taken at this Denver Post article.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Blast from the past

My sister is scanning old family photos. I'll be posting some of them, starting with this one. I think this was probably my fourteen birthday.

Sure doesn't feel like 40+ years have passed since then...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Just another rainy Monday

Well, the weekend slipped away from me. We had glorious fall weather on Saturday. Sunny, not too hot, blue skies. Spent a lot of time outdoors and my lawn guy came and we had a nice long chat. He's such a sweetie. I told him not to bother, but he blew all the grass clippings off my car anyway after he raised up a big dust storm blowing the leaves around the tree. And under the heading, the best shots always get away, when he raised up that huge cloud of dust at one point, it was so thick you could barely see him in it, and the sun was filtering through the tree. Would have made a great picture, but by the time I got the camera it was too late.

Yesterday was overcast, but still pretty warm. Today it's blech. Dark, cold, damp and sort of rainy. I had to turn the heat for a few minutes to take the chill off. I hate doing that so soon in the year and I'm sad to discover that turning on the heat makes the musty smell worse. Guess I'm going to have to get a dehumifidier after all and see if that helps. Meanwhile, I'm looking at the classifieds and keeping my eyes open for places for rent. I'm going to hate to move again, but this is definitely not the space I want to settle down into for the long term here.

Meanwhile, I finally got a new key ring for my extra house key. It's very cool and I got it for free at the convenience store. It's a teeny tiny ice scraper that says North Carolina Education Lottery on it. Figured it would be perfect to keep in the car in case I ever lock myself out. Only problem is, now I can't find the extra key. It's driving me crazy. It was in the same spot forever and I don't recall moving it, although I do remember thinking I was going to put it on the old Heineken key ring I found when I was going through my stuff. Can't find that key ring either, so maybe I already hid it and forgot. And of course, you know as soon as I go get another key made, I will find this one.

But on the bright side, I've been trying to root these cuttings my mom gave me from her angel wing begonia with no luck for a few weeks now. I decided to cut them down a bit more past the woody stems and they're finally showing some roots so I'll be able to pot them up before it's too cold to do it outside. And my sister is giving me a TV stand this week so I'll be able to use the table the TV is on now for all the house plants I suddenly have. It will fit perfectly under the one sunny window. So there's that.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Couldn't stand the weather

I rarely get to see the leading edge of a cloud formation here. This one was pretty dramatic the other day.

Unfortunately, that front brought the cold weather in. Was freezing inside here for a couple of days until I could get the gas turned on. Hate to be turning on the heat so early in the year, but 60 degrees inside is just too cold for me.

I'm also remembering the downside of living on the first level of a house. Cold floors. Going to have to get some really warm slippers and maybe rethink putting up curtains and getting some rugs after all. This place bleeds heat. Warms up okay, but it doesn't hold. Hoping it will get better once the leaves fall and I get more direct sun.